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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2707

Talking To Terrorists

By Gomin Dayasri

Those making the crossing from around Mullativu are a different lot, from others who crossed during the last few months. They know it is twilight time for the sun god awaiting a call to be beheaded. Escape, he must, if he is to survive but before he could, those who lived in his domain have decided to move. They are emphatic the LTTE is destined to lose, so why wait?

Suresh, the LTTE fighter had ridden his bicycle to a territory not knowing the Army had already moved in so deep into the LTTE heartland.” Cadres know they cannot fight the army with a 15 days training. All males between ages 18-40 are conscripted. So they run when the army fires as they cannot stand and fight.

The will to fight is no longer there even among our senior cadres. More will desert, previously, their mother or father were taken to custody-now the LTTE is ineffective. If they knew how well we are treated more will cross. We were told repeatedly the Army will kill or maim us”. He had surrendered but many come in groups with a front liner often carrying a white flag.

23 year old Ranga was promised an IT training but instead given a crash course in military instructions and sent to the battle front. It was drilled to him the atrocities committed by the Army so he feared surrendering. He was shown newspaper articles of roaming white vans. They were lectured on the need that “all must be together to win the war”. He opined that the Forces are moving rapidly and the LTTE is in disarray and many have taken flight and no longer can orders be effectively communicated to the public.

Young men were watching the finals of the one day international against Bangladesh
squatting or stretched on the floor of the displaced persons camp (luxury to those who came from a district without electricity) seeing Murali display his skills with the bat on the brink of defeat, the soldiers on guard joined to watch TV; the poignant moment was when the soldiers and the young boys from the North, in unison cheered lustily as the winning stroke was made. One Nation, One People.

Those in the camps from the Killinochchi District have penetrating insights. The fall of the LTTE strongholds accelerated with the departure of the NGOs’ from the area; obviously the second line of defense by the LTTE. It was these foreign organizations that provided the LTTE with first aid facilities for the injured, excess fuel for the vehicles, preservative food rations for the fighting formations and building material for the construction of makeshift bunkers. The largest project undertaken by the NGOs’ was providing equipment for construction of the many high embankments which girdled principle towns that thwarted the progress of the Forces. LTTE could not survive for long without inputs of these NGOs that operated from Killinochchi. Often these foreigners, could be seen enjoying the ala carte menu of the Terrorist Kitchen in happier times.

Army’s hospitality treatment assuaged the initial fears instilled by the LTTE. At the crossing points itself the new arrivals are served with tea and biscuits. Soon a Tamil speaking officer arrives to offer comfort. Kind words were balm to scared souls. It was the women who feared most but the trepidation eased with the service of food parcels and the arrival of women officers with buses being provided to take them to camps. With LTTE presence becoming diminished in the operational areas, the people were able to bring more belongings and a row of trailers brought the goods to camps.

There were problems in the camps due to inadequate attention by the administration under GA Vavuniya. There was agitation in my presence that there were not sufficient mats for sleeping provided whereas there should have been buffer stocks, and the camp officers had to ease the tension. It was known days ahead that flow of refugees would be on the rise. Many felt the GA was not sufficiently caring or was typically bureaucratic!

LTTE trishaws mounted with hailers circle villages announcing fallaciously the likelihood of an invasion by the Army and demanding they leave homes forthwith. Most knew it is a false alarm but had no choice. A ring built around the village by armed terrorists in battle fatigue blocked the many exits making them leave compulsorily to a designated area. Having being shepherded to a virtual concentration camp the people were compelled to work- build emergency bunkers, fell trees, construct high embankments and dig wells.

Where free speech is not tolerated there was no right to protest and punishments were galore with jail sentences. A possible effective protest was to launch on a hunger strike as it attracted unfavorable publicity in the vicinity. Much of Prabhakaran’s image has been destroyed by his cadres. People remain baffled whether such herding of the population was to create a human shield or a concentration camp for emergency work. The objectives could be twofold.

Weeding bells pealed persistently during the CFA but the restrictions have come again. The marriages are frowned but permitted on the condition the honeymoon is on till midnight on the day of the wedding. It was comical that before the first light the groom or the bride had to join to serve the LTTE. It was an early to bed early to rise manipulation. Who would not care to escape from such a megalomaniac? Life became more intolerable with the LTTE forces losing ground.

The most horrific story was of an aged cultivator (former State Timber Corporation employee) who had hidden his two children (boy 27 girl 22) for two years on an islet around the many lagoons in the inland waters. When the LTTE came in search of them he told them the girl had disappeared to get married and the boy has run away. At 1.00 or 2.00 a.m. fearing the presence of village spies, the parents used to secretly visit the children in the hide out with roti fired in oil so that it is preserved to last three meals.

They use to take the children occasionally to a well which did not contain salt water for a bath . The happy family of four I saw at the refugee camp was relieved to be out of the clutches of the terrorists though the comforts at the camp are minimal. There was unanimity that mass forced child recruitment with parents held as sureties which began after the fall of the East, was the most telling factor for Prabhakaran to sully his image.

The boys in the refugee camp discovered a former LTTE child recruiter posing off as a refugee and sought the permission of the lady warden to assault him. Before long the parents joined the melee to launch the attack but the camp officials who are duty bound to protect all registered refugees had to intervene and escort him to safety and dispatch the offender to another camp. The little boys jeered him all the way out of the camp while a few cried. He defense was that he had to carry out orders of the LTTE high command –the stand many took at Nuremberg trials.

There was the story of human trafficking where LTTE agents safely dumped kids out of their territory to safe homes if Rs 200000 was offered. Many affluent parents had resorted to making such payment but there was no verification whether this was authorized by the LTTE or clandestinely carried out. If unauthorized it would have met with capital punishment so it more likely it had the blessings of the high command. The decrepit feeble and the sick had to pay Rs 5000 for not making a manual contribution to the cause.

A doctor at the government hospital had often asked patients who came why they arrived for treatment to discourage non LTTE cadres from visiting the hospital. It did not surprise me since I was told the same question was being asked by a high public official from refugees who came to the camp over the last few days? LTTE still has its operatives in strange places!!

A middle aged father from Puthukudiyiruppu described being incarcerated in a prison for sending his son to India in a cubicle designed in the form of a 6 feet x 3 feet kennel and he was fed in the same manner as a dog and was kept chained for 10 days.

A frequent complaint was that provisions doled out by the State or the NGOs were siphoned off by the LTTE agents. The LTTE had it own identity card system in place and arrangements with the cooperatives to which the food was dispatched. The goods were over priced and the locals knew part of it was channeled to LTTE pockets. Vegetables sell at Rs 400 per kilo, Petrol liter sells presently at Rs 1000 and Kerosene liter at Rs 320.Tractor motors have been modified to pick up on petrol and run on kerosene.

These traumatized people coming from entrapped areas yearn for peace. Their right to live a normal life has been more abridged than ours. Convinced the days of the LTTE are numbered, they, more than us, want the LTTE decimated for their own good. The wear and tare of hard life under the LTTE bears tell tale marks on their faces which show more age than the passing years. Swiftness of the desired military victory is with the hope that normalcy will return to their lives in their lifetime.

- Asian Tribune -

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